Children whose mothers monitor how much time they spend watching TV and playing video games are more likely to have a lower body mass index (BMI) as they get older according to a new study.
Researchers found that moms who were more active in their media supervision had kids who were closer to a normal weight at age seven and gained less weight over the next few years.
"At this point we can say there is an association but we cannot say exactly why," Stacey Tiberio, the study's lead author from the Oregon Social Learning Center in Eugene, told Reuters Health.
Tiberio said the results might point to the mothers encouraging their kids to be more active instead of letting them watch excessive amounts of TV. She also noted that it could be that their kids aren't spending as much time being exposed to food ads.
For the new study, they used data from 112 mothers, 103 fathers and their 213 children.
Parents and children answered questionnaires, were interviewed and received physicals when the kids were five, seven and nine years old. The data were collected between 1998 and 2012.
On the flip side, researchers found that mothers who weren't as vigilant in monitoring their children's media interaction tended to have heavier kids.
Also, less aggressive media monitoring by mothers was tied to more irregular weights among children over the entire study period.
Father's monitoring was not tied to changes in their kid's weight. Tiberio said this was possibly due to mothers generally being the primary caregiver.
Tiberio said the link between TV monitoring and weight gain is important because early adolescence tends to be a critical time for future BMI.
"It's basically a one-way door," Tiberio said. "If you are obese by middle childhood, you have an increased likelihood of staying in that group."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children limit their total screen time to no more than one to two hours per day of quality content.
Sports, playing outside and family exercise time together- such as walking and bicycling - are excellent substitutions for after school TV watching.
The study was published online at JAMA Pediatrics.
Source: Andrew M. Seaman, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/17/us-mothers-monitoring-media-idUSBREA2G1PM20140317